Saturday, November 8, 2014

Why Did Wendy Davis Lose So Badly?

Wendy Davis
On November 4, 2014, Wendy Davis lost by a million votes.

She lost the state's most important prize - Harris County (Houston) - and, to add insult to injury, her state senate seat was nabbed by a anti-choice Tea Party candidate.

It's easy to read into these results that Texans emphatically rejected Davis' vision of the future, but that would be incorrect. Texans rejected voting.

Just 28% of Texans voted in this year's mid-terms, ranking us 51st in the nation in voter turnout. Somehow, we managed to vote in fewer numbers than even the states that had no real contest on the ballot. As Texans, we deserve the government we're going to get.

For starters, Greg Abbott will wage war on virtually everything that Davis, and the 1.7 million Texans who voted for her, hold dear: choice, education, gay rights, equal pay, and corporate accountability.

Despite his multi-million dollar settlement courtesy of his personal injury lawyer, he will almost certainly make sure you don't have the same day in court.

Despite his ludicrous arguments against marriage equality, which have been laughed at as "unserious" by appeals judges, countless millions of dollars will be spent defending the dustbin of history.

And forget about choice. We are about to get an administration that will make us remember Rick Perry fondly.

Greg Abbott will spend the next four years shrinking Texas government just small enough to fit into everyone's bedroom.

Our next Lieutenant Governor is a non-entity. After refusing to even debate the intellectually formidable Leticia Van De Putte, Dan Patrick managed to under poll Greg Abbott by 80,000 votes. This was in a year that was a statewide Republican rout. But we're getting him anyway.

Wendy Davis lost big on Tuesday because the people she needed to win stayed home. All across Texas, voter turnout lagged 2010. In the Rio Grande valley, Davis spectacularly underperformed Bill White's 2010 turnout. You can't win Texas by winning big in Austin.

We already have a great state for business, for growth, of low taxes, and high aspirations. Greg Abbott wants a Texas that works for small sliver of us, and he succeeded in getting that on Tuesday.

Wendy Davis lost big because she ran before the storm that's about to engulf all of us. She'll be back, but it might be too late.

Monday, November 3, 2014

When Did We Lose Our Nerve?

Coca-Cola's most famous ad: Hilltop

('Hilltop': an early example of breakthrough content from Coca-Cola. Courtesy: The Coca-Cola Company)

Last week, I hosted an amazing panel at the Spredfast Summit with Brian Marks from Aramark, Jennifer Brown from Edelman, and Deirdre Walsh from Jive Software. After about 30 minutes of lively conversation about great social content and paid media, I asked the audience how many of them felt that their brands put out “brave” content.

Five people raised their hands. Five.

That means that of the roughly 100 brands in the audience, only 5% consistently produce work that makes them proud. Hopefully, they didn’t all work for the same company.

Folks, we’ve all collectively lost our nerve. Producing great content is why we’re here.

I’m writing this post somewhere above the bayous of Louisiana, on my way to the CMO Summit in Turnberry, Scotland. As I look out the window at the total blackness below, I’m reminded of last week’s New York Times Magazine cover story: every hour, an acre of Louisiana falls into the ocean. What if a Louisiana company had broken that story? Even more heretical, what if an oil and gas company had done it?

I used to work for Coca-Cola, and my proudest Coke moment was during this year’s Super Bowl when the brand debuted ‘America Is Beautiful’America the Beautiful sung by young, American girls in seven languages. The xenophobic backlash was intense, but Coke stood its ground. Why? Because the brand decided it was time to stand for something. The idea that that what makes America beautiful is its diversity, intense beauty, and colorful cultural fabric was a hill worth dying on for the brand that brought us ‘Hilltop’.

We all work for businesses that need to make money, and angering as few people as possible along the way is usually a good thing. But sometimes, there’s positive ROI in telling a certain segment of the population to just shove it.

And bravery doesn’t always mean incendiary. It can also be ‘Think Small’ or ‘Gracie’ or ‘Thank You, Mom’.

Social media today is like television in the early 1960s. It’s still the Wild West, with an entrepreneurial-anything-can-happen air about it. If we reduce it to the digital equivalent of a billboard, we’ll have squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

Instead, let’s do work that matters, work that people will write stories about one day.

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